“The Thief of Time is a learned and at times provocative read.” America magazine
“This lively historical saga . . . is undyingly recommended.” Booklist
“Boyne is creative and entertaining, particularly as he develops his characters.” Library Journal
“Extraordinary.… The various strands of the story are resolved with a stylish twist and genuine warmth.” The Sunday Express
“A delightful epic, filled with twists and treachery, and vividly told.” The Herald
“A minor masterpiece of organisation and historical sampling.” Time Out
“Boyne is a skilful storyteller… The novel is superbly constructed.” Sunday Tribune
Published in the U.K. before his hits Crippen and The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, this novel sails similarly historical currents with mixed results. Matthieu Zela is 256 years old in 1999, but doesn't look a day over 50. (Bafflingly-to himself, too-he simply stopped aging.) Loquacious Matthieu crisscrosses the centuries with wry, autobiographical narration, moving from his current incarnation as a satellite TV entrepreneur in London to his coming-of-age in the 1750s, when he leaves Paris for England with his young half-brother Tomas in tow and meets his one true love, Dominique Sauvet. Matthieu's one deep regret, however, isn't romance-related: of the 10 generations of Thomases descended from his brother, each has had his life cut short, "either by his own stupidity or by the machinations of the times." Matthieu's current nephew, Tommy, a wildly popular soap opera star, is a heroin addict and not long for this world. Matthieu vows to prevent his too-early demise. In between, Matthieu shares too predictable highlights from his brushes with world events (the French Revolution, the 1929 stock market crash, etc.) and famous people (Pope Pius IX, Charlie Chaplin, the Rosenbergs). The picaresque nature of this hopscotch through history's hot spots suits Boyne's big-canvas talent, but Matthieu, in his unexplained immortality, is more like a storytelling device than a fully realized character. This novel is not a follow-up but a practice run. (Mar.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
In this imaginative work, the author of Crippen presents the life of Matthieu Zela, who has lived for 256 years without aging. Matthieu's first-person narrative weaves together three distinct threads: his current life in 1999, his early years with first love Dominique, and poignant episodes in between. These episodes include the French Revolution (1789-99), the construction of England's Crystal Palace (1851), and the Wall Street Crash (1929). Each chapter is almost a short story in and of itself, which makes reading the novel an initially confusing experience. Having all the time in the world, Matthieu drifts through life, never getting close enough to anyone to tell his secret. He looks after a series of reckless nephews (and great-nephews) named Thomas (or Thom, or Tomas) who seem doomed to die young. Matthieu's tortured love affair with Dominique also resonates throughout the years, influencing his many marriages and relationships. Boyne is creative and entertaining, particularly as he develops his characters. Recommended for public libraries. [Library marketing campaign planned; Boyle's best-selling young adult novel about the Holocaust, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, has been optioned for film.-Ed.]-Laurel Bliss, Princeton Univ. Lib., NJ Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Boyne (Crippen, 2006, etc.) offers a historical fantasy about a 256-year-old man. Matthieu Zela is a fortunate man. He has discovered the secret of perpetual middle age, as Oscar Levant said of Zsa Zsa Gabor. Though never a father himself, he has lived through nine generations of nephews, each of whom, after fathering a son, has died in his 20s; Matthieu has been given their unused years. It's a silly idea, but it does allow Boyne to dip into history at will. Matthieu was born in Paris in 1743. After his stepfather murdered his mother and was executed, 15-year-old Matthieu left for England with his five-year-old half-brother Tomas. On the cross-Channel boat, he met 19-year-old Dominique, also fleeing France; the three became a family. Boyne moves back and forth among many time periods. There is Matthieu's coming-of-age year, 1760, and there is his present, 1999. In between, Boyne inserts several pieces of history, ranging from the 1793 Paris Terror to the Hollywood blacklist of the McCarthy period. The constant is narrator Matthieu, who makes money and connections with improbable ease, whether working for the pope in Rome as an arts administrator in 1847 or falling into a role as TV producer in 1940s Hollywood. Unfortunately, Boyne has no feeling for the past, and Matthieu's voice is bland, so that even the guillotining of his first nephew counts for little; like the many other violent incidents, it is told with a practiced glibness. Boyne does a little better with Matthieu's origins (Dominique's death provides a rare moment of genuine excitement) and the present, in which Matthieu is trying to save his drug-addicted nephew, the star of a BBC soap, from yet another early grave. It's atough assignment, but Matthieu pulls it off; once said nephew is set for a long life, Matthieu can settle into old age. A gimmick in search of a plot, and far duller than it should have been, given the material.